IT is hard to feel sorry for someone who was forced to stay on the French Riviera for two months.

Peter Tydie says: “The worst part was definintely when we blew an engine on the boat and we were stuck in one place for two months until we could get it fixed.”

But the landlord of the Victory, in West Mersea, adds: “I suppose if I was going to be stuck anywhere, the French Riviera is probably the place I’d want it to happen!”

Laughing, Peter recalls his “gap year” boating along the canals of France with wife Gill when he was 50.

Peter says: “We took our year out a bit later in life than most people.

“We visited Paris, the Loire Valley, Lyon and Cannes. We had a wonderful time, but you have to come back and do some work. I had a job lined up but when we got back I just couldn’t settle back into the corporate life.”

The former advertising executive had built up a career in London while Gill, 59, ran a call centre for Xerox near their home in Hertfordshire.

But ten years ago they threw it all in to travel and on their return they decided to take up the lease for a small village pub in the county.

Peter, 60, says: “It is incredibly hard work and all consuming running a pub. We had always worked long hours in our previous jobs but seven days a week working until you drop exhausted into bed is something else. “People think that you get a lie-in when you run a pub because it doesn’t open until midday but you still have other work to do.

“It took us six months to get settled into it and we regularly thought, ‘what have we done!’ But if you enjoy it, it’s great and we loved it.”

The couple, who have two daughters and four grandsons, learned the trade in Hertfordshire before moving to Mersea to run the old Victory hotel, along Coast Road.

Peter says: “We have always spent a lot of time on boats and we were convinced the coast is where we wanted to be, so I did an internet search for pubs by the coast on the market and the Victory came up.”

He also slips in the fact that he and Gill had their first date at a pub called the Victory in London 34 years earlier.

He was soon to discover that running a bed and breakfast – the Victory has seven rooms – as well as a bar was a whole different boardgame, but a challenge Peter and Gill were not going to shy away from.

“We opened at Easter six and a half years ago we could not believe how busy it was,” recalls Peter.

“It was the hottest Easter for five years and we were amazed at the volume of business. Year on year, with the exception of last year, we have seen an increase in business.

“Saying that, when the opportunity to take part in Four in a Bed came up, we took it.”

Peter says: “The production company called me an hour after I sent in an application. “We had to have a phone interview and two weeks later they came to film us and as Gill and I were used to being on camera for work and training films from our previous jobs, we were fine.”

Not one to let an opportunity pass, filming began the day the couple returned from holiday.

“We landed at Gatwick and went straight to the first bed and breakfast to start filming. “We loved every minute of it. “We didn’t win, we came third, but we didn’t expect to win.”

The experience has boosted trade and every time the programme is repeated the couple are flooded with bookings for food and rooms.

“About two months after the programme aired we went online to check the availability at the other bed and breakfasts that took part in the programme. While the Victory was fully booked for weeks ahead, the winner’s accommodation had availability that same weekend,” says Peter, quietly pleased.

Peter puts the Victory’s success following the programme down to the fact that he and Gill played the game straight. While others were interested in playing games and backstabbing, the Tydies didn’t bother.

He says: “We got some negative e-mails after the show but if you set yourself up for this sort of thing and appear on a programme like this, you expect that. “But we have benefitted from appearing on the show and we enjoyed it immensley. We know when it has been repeated on television because we get an increase in bookings.

“We would do it again.”

Jamie Oliver’s entourage stayed at the Victory when they filmed in Mersea for one of his shows. The original Victory pub is now a private cottage along Coast Road. The current building was built in the early 1900s by the Colchester Brewery Company and was known as the Victory Hotel.